Not so much looking down as across..

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Goodbye Garret the Good

I only met Garret FitzGerald once. And sadly it was only briefly. It was over breakfast at a weekend seminar organised by his son Mark for Sherry FitzGerald staff and friends.
At early breakfast Garret was looking good and many years younger than his 82 at the time. Many, myself included, were the worse for wear due to ‘socializing’ into the early hours. As a result over breakfast we were looking many years older than our birth certs might suggest.

It was the classic ‘quiet’ business breakfast that follows the noisy night before. Our husbands, wives and partners who should have been a civilizing influence had clearly failed and so small talk was of the hushed variety as conference delegates struggled to remember their own name, never mind the names of colleagues who had come from the far flung corners of Ireland and beyond.

It was in this context that I mumbled a ‘Good Morning’ to Garret who by this time, no doubt, had read both the Irish Times and the Financial Times. I often regretted that I missed the opportunity to engage in something more meaningful.

I could have mentioned how I was a member of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland at the time of which he was Chairman for many years. But having never actually travelled on one of the steam engines that conversation might have disappeared down a cul de sac, or into a siding to use the technical term.

The truth is that I could have spoken to Garret on a wide range of subjects because he was uniquely Ireland’s Renaissance man with a passionate interest in a wide spectrum of interests, political, social, economic and financial. Garret was Ireland’s answer to Stephen Fry, and much much more. He was an elder Statesman in the mould of Paddy Ashdown or Neil Kinnock but without the slightly tribal chains that occasionally shackle them. You could be an ardent member of Fianna Fail and say you liked Garret and remain in the party. Because in truth Garret transcended party politics, indeed he transcended politics in its narrowest definition and was a Statesman in the true sense.

I had the good fortune to work as a consultant to his son’s company Sherry FitzGerald for two years. It was and is a remarkable company in terms of the humanity and egalitarian roots that shine through in many areas. It is hard to believe that it was a mere coincidence that the company co founded by Garret’s son Mark demonstrates so many of his own characteristics.

Our country has lost a great leader. Our people have lost an intellectual and moral touchstone. His family has lost a wonderful father and grandfather. I have lost the chance to enquire about the punctuality of steam trains in the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland.

I fully believe that he is resting at God’s side – ar dheis De – and while he may not need our prayers he will certainly receive our fondest thoughts for many many years to come.

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